Although care may be behind other sectors when it comes to adopting technology, Health and Social Care Minister Matt Hancock made integrating care technologies one of his priorities for the NHS to address the challenges faced and allow people to access the care they need quickly easily.
There has already been innovation in the sector, such as GPS trackers to locate vulnerable people and smart wearable sensors to monitor and report heart rates or if someone has had a fall.
With adoption increasing, new technologies are developing at pace.
Robots are developed across many sectors. Where such devices are used in a manufacturing environment, domestic devices for mowing the lawn or vacuuming the house are becoming more accessible.
The technology is developing exponentially, which is making them a viable option for care provision. A robot may be able to assist with general housework or provide medication reminders. They will be no replacement for social interaction; however, by completing repetitive tasks, costs are reduced, and more time would be available for personal interaction.
Robot technologies can be built into building automating tasks and free up time for social interaction.
There are aspects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that have been introduced into care homes across the UK, allowing for patients' monitoring to predict the need for early intervention. AI-based tools will enable the tracking of behaviour to spot changes in real-time.
While smart devices increased in popularity across domestic homes in the early 2000s, it was not until more recent years where they were introduced into UK care homes. Digital hubs are at the core of smart technology and act as the primary control for managing everything from lighting, to thermostats, and playing residents' favourite songs.
When designing a building, this infrastructure is easily included in the fabric to connect to a range of systems.
Building Information Modelling (BIM)
Today, most buildings are designed using BIM. Through the use of BIM, a 3D representation of the building is produced. This model is beneficial in design and construction but is hugely valuable in the building's operation.
These models are full of data allowing analysis and prediction of building performance. The development of the digital twin, which is a digital representation of the physical building means analysis and monitoring of a care facility is a reality, allowing care provision to be optimised.
In recent years, the care sector has begun its digital transformation; however, there is still a way to go. Robotics, AI and machine learning technology will play a large role in enhancing and transforming care homes in the future. Technology can benefit not just patients by combating severe issues such as loneliness but also care professionals, assisting with daily core tasks and reducing workloads will allow carers to devote more time to residents to provide compassionate care.